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Old Senate Chamber


  • Vicinity: N of the Capitol Rotunda

Located north of the Capitol Rotunda is the richly decorated Old Senate Chamber. Designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe, this room was home to the US Senate from 1819 until 1859 and later to the US Supreme Court from 1860-1935. Today the restored Chamber is used primarily as a museum, recreating the scene of many significant moments in the evolution of the United States Senate and the legislative history of the nation. - US Architect of the Capital


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Timeline

Y/M/D Person Association Description Composition Food Event
Y/M/D Person Association Description Composition Food Event
1815/00/00 Benjamin H Latrobe Architect Latrobe designs the US Senate Chamber and supervises its construction 1815-1819
1823/00/00 Rembrandt Peale Artist Rembrandt Peale paints a second portrait of George Washington and sells the original portrait to Congress in 1832 for $2000. It still hangs in Old Senate Chamber. George Washington 1795 Sitting
1824/12/08 Marquis de Lafayette Guest of Honor Lafayette is received at the United States Senate. Lafayette's Triumphal Tour of America
1828/00/00 Charles Bulfinch Architect Bulfinch adds second gallery supported by cast-iron columns in US Senate chamber
1841/04/04 John Tyler US Vice President Tyler is sworn in the nation's 10th vice president in the Senate chamber, and delivers a 3-minute speech about states' rights before swearing in the new senators and attending President Harrison's inauguration outside on Capitol's east portico.
1892/05/16 John S Barbour Jr In Memoriam A Catholic funeral is held in the US Senate for John S Barbour. Probably the first time a Catholic priest officiated in the Senate chamber.
1961/01/20 Lyndon Baynes Johnson Vice President Lunch: cream of tomato soup with crushed popcorn, deviled crab meat imperial, New England boiled stuffed lobster, prime Texas ribs of beef au jus, string beans amandine and broiled tomatoes with grapefruit and avocado sections with poppyseed dressing. JFK Presidential Election
1961/01/20 John F Kennedy US President Lunch: cream of tomato soup with crushed popcorn, deviled crab meat imperial, New England boiled stuffed lobster, prime Texas ribs of beef au jus, string beans amandine and broiled tomatoes with grapefruit and avocado sections with poppyseed dressing. JFK Presidential Election
1961/01/20 Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis First Lady Lunch: cream of tomato soup with crushed popcorn, deviled crab meat imperial, New England boiled stuffed lobster, prime Texas ribs of beef au jus, string beans amandine and broiled tomatoes with grapefruit and avocado sections with poppyseed dressing. JFK Presidential Election

Information »

Modeled after the amphitheaters of antiquity, the two-story Chamber is semicircular in shape and measures 75 feet long and 50 feet wide. The ceiling is a half dome. Two visitors' galleries overlook the Chamber. The gallery on the east wall is supported by eight Ionic columns of variegated marble quarried along the Potomac River; they were inspired by the columns of the Erechtheion in Athens. A second and much larger "Ladies' Gallery" follows the curved western wall. It is carried on 12 steel columns encased in cast-iron forms with Corinthian capitals, which were designed to simulate the cast-iron originals. A wrought-iron balcony railing follows the contour of the gallery and is backed by crimson fabric that accentuates the decorative metalwork.

Directly above the east gallery hangs an 1823 "porthole" portrait of George Washington by Rembrandt Peale, who had painted Washington from life. This portrait was purchased in 1832, the centennial of Washington's birth, for display in the Chamber. - US Architect of the Capital

History »

Located in the eastern half of the old north wing, the Old Senate Chamber is a semicircular room 75 feet in diameter covered by a half dome. It was designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe and constructed by him and his successor, Charles Bulfinch, in 1815-1819. Latrobe modeled the chamber after similar rooms he had seen in Paris, which he considered ideally suited for hearing, speaking and seeing. He employed marble columns based on Grecian examples to support the visitor's gallery along the eastern wall. In 1828 Charles Bulfinch added a second gallery supported by slender cast-iron columns along the curving western wall.

The Senate met in this room from 1819 until its new chamber was ready in 1859. The next year the Supreme Court took over and remained here until moving across the street in 1935. For the next 40 years the room was used as a meeting or entertainment room. It was restored in 1976 to commemorate the history of the Senate. - US Architect of the Capital


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